This one’s for my fellow warriors. The ones who depend on their village and family like no other. The ones who smile gracefully when they hear another say she’s “single mommy-ing it” when their spouse is traveling and not returning home for a night or two.
This one’s for the true single mom.
Not to be misunderstood or undermine any other mom or the single father – it’s all hard. My truest experience as a parent, however, comes from the camp of “single mom.” Now well into my eighth year of this title, it occurred to me one night that while I share a lot of stories and anecdotes in this Mommy Musings space, I rarely speak from the sisterhood I share with some special ladies.
As I sat to type this early this week, the date of this issue and its significance quickly caught me in the gut. On September 11, 2001 I was not a parent. Quite honestly the aftermath of that day left me wondering if that was a path I wanted given the current state of our world. It was also a time in my life when I was married, but spent a lot of time solo as my husband at the time was serving this great country of ours in the US Navy, stationed in Japan.
That day is also a day when many woke a happy complete family, only to have it suddenly changed forever by an extremist group of terrorists.
That’s the thing about single parenting and the stigma which is sometimes accompanying. Not all single parents found themselves there by being irresponsible, hasty or careless. Some find themselves in this club by tragedy, illness or a spouse who has given up. Regardless of circumstance it is indeed a journey unique unto itself.
Now being completely transparent, it feels a bit odd (although true) to refer to myself currently as a “single” mom. There is a very significant partner in this journey with me; however our dwellings remain separate as do a number of other things. He is however my rock and when it comes to needing a “person” he is indeed my go to.
I recently shared a coffee date with a single mom who is now happily remarried. A few nights before I had shared a beer with another single mom to catch up and share our challenges. That night is when this piece first took wings.
As my girlfriend and I spoke over coffee a few days later, I shared some thoughts on the topic. We discussed how I’ve noticed that many women become a bit more “out loud” and open about their life once that perceived perfect relationship falls apart.
Knowing many of the same women, we discussed the variety of backgrounds and circumstances – stereotypes non-existent. What I recognized about us as a group was how the fact of becoming a single parent seemed to free us from caring about judgement.
“Once your failure/imperfection becomes public you sort of stop caring about stigma,” I shared with my girlfriend. “It’s almost like, why not share the messiness if it helps someone else. We’re publicly imperfect and okay with it.”
As I shared this my girlfriend grinned, nodding in agreeance. Both of us openly discussing how hard we used to strive to do life perfectly – the house, the kids, the clothes, the parties.
Fun fact: I used to tie all of our spare sheets in raffia before placing in our linen closet. Personally I can blame Martha Stewart and my obsession with her “Living.” Looking back it makes me chuckle, I mean who the heck cares about what my sheets looked like in my linen closet?
I also would have once been concerned by the fact that I met a friend for a beer on a Wednesday night and the image that might conjure. Then there’s the topic of dating in a small town and the gossip which quickly follows. The stories people like to create on why and how you became single, facts about your personal life (facts used loosely) and the feelings of others (friends, family and strangers) to second guess all your choices.
Single mom hood is no picnic. Granted I spent the first seven years of my parenting journey with a partner. When the kids were sick the same person got up to care for them as does today – mom. Lunches were packed then by the same person they are today – mom.
But yet it’s truly very different.
I still recall someone sharing with me in the first year of flying solo how they didn’t know how I did it. They felt I was – brave, strong, incredible. All adjectives quite honestly I did not identify with, I was simply just trying to get them to school on time and remember to feed them and wash their clothes. In short much of those days in the early years, we were simply surviving.
Yet as we did, we were surrounded, loved and cared for by many who simply wanted to see us thrive and so … We did.
So here’s to you, my single mom readers. We (the others) know about your tears in silence, the long showers to have a moment to yourself and the longing to use the restroom without an audience or another person on the other side of the door. We know how you long to have the kids have someone take them to the park, so you can hear yourself think and we know how you wander aimlessly in Target when and if you ever get to step through the doors unaccompanied.
Stay strong ladies, you are doing more than raising children, you are showing them that strong is not only possible – it’s who they are – because you’ve raised them. Godspeed.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.